The followers of Christ in Bible and Book of Mormon times were known for their good works, “imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.” (Mosiah 18:29.) They served simply in the place where they lived.
On 17 March 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the women of the Church “under the Priesthood and after a pattern of the Priesthood” (History of Relief Society, 1842–1966, Salt Lake City: General Board of Relief Society, 1967, p. 18) into the “Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.” The society’s object is the “relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes.” (History of the Church, 4:552–53, 567.) Their practical acts of service have multiplied through 150 years and into 128 countries and territories.
“The motto of Relief Society, ‘Charity Never Faileth,’” says general president Elaine L. Jack, “is so important that we are basing the 1992 sesquicentennial celebration around a theme of humanitarian service. Charity is not something we do now and again. It is a way of thinking. It is a way of living. It is an attitude that we adopt.”
Why is it important that charity be a natural part of our lives?
Relief Society sisters have found many ways to exercise charity in their communities.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stake Relief Society president Dawn Rutowski read that a newly opened “safe house” for abused children needed small quilts. More than 150 women and girls gathered on a Saturday afternoon to tie three hundred quilts that would provide warmth and security for children arriving at this temporary shelter to await more permanent homes.
After discovering that a local hospital needed new pillows and bed sheets, Relief Society sisters in the Kowloon Hong Kong Stake purchased cloth and made 150 pillows and other items.
Seven Relief Society sisters in Syracuse, Italy, joined women from other churches and civic groups to open a home for underprivileged unwed mothers.
When an eighteen-month-old Bolivian boy, Danny, was flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City for corrective surgery on his feet and hips, Relief Society sisters cared for him during his three-month recovery period. One sister anxiously walked the hospital corridors during his surgery, then stayed by Danny through the night. Others lifted him in his full-body cast, bathed him, and changed his diapers.
Holladay Utah North Stake Relief Society president Sharon Kasteler reports, “The sisters who cared for Danny have the ‘heart of the gospel’ in their lives today because they have shared and given.”
How are Relief Society women in our community rendering service?
Bishop Glenn L. Pace reminds us that as Church members we may fast and give fast offerings, thus enabling the Church to do more to relieve suffering. “Every member of the Church can pray for peace throughout the world,” he said, “and for the well-being of all its inhabitants.”
He encourages us to open our eyes to needs close around us: “The greatest compassionate service each of us can give may be in our own neighborhoods and communities.” (Ensign, Nov. 1990, p. 9.)
Bishop Pace points out that we must take the initiative. We have been taught correct principles. “We need not wait for a call or an assignment.” (Ibid., pp. 9–10.)
We invite you to join us in imparting service both temporally and spiritually during this sesquicentennial year.